Remember that old expression, "What you see is what you get”? I'm going to say that's not always true. Think about the food photography used by restaurants. Does your meal always look like the picture? How about that outfit on the mannequin in the clothing store. Will it look the same on you? Or the furniture on the showroom floor. Can you achieve the same look in your living room once you get it home? We're disappointed when things don't live up to our expectations, whether we're eating out, buying new clothes, getting a couch or, yes, having our vehicle towed.
So what does the average customer in need of service from the towing industry expect? Major motor clubs regularly survey their members, and you might be surprised by the results. Survey after survey shows the top three customer expectations of our industry are:
- Attitude and appearance
Another surprise is that these concerns are listed in order of importance to the average customer.
That’s right. Timeliness of the service is the most important concern for most customers. First and foremost they want us there before they hang up the phone.
Second is the attitude and appearance of the service provider and his or her equipment. The customer wants to be treated with respect and dignity by a friendly, empathetic, neat and clean individual.
And last—but far from least—the customer expects the value of the service to be equal to (or greater than) the cost of the service.
These three expectations are interconnected. An example would be arriving later than promised. This could cause the customer to become upset and directly affect their perception of the cost of the service. We've all heard it before: "I had to wait an hour. I'm not paying full price for that kind of service." Similarly, if an operator isn't friendly and professional, the customer could easily start to wonder, “Am I getting what I’m paying for?”
Strategies for happy tow customers
There are strategies a tow business can adopt to help reduce customer concerns and build positive customer relations.
1. Arrive when you say you will. Call customers if you're going to be longer than the original service promise time.
2. Put on a happy face. Schedule motivational staff meetings to build enthusiasm and encourage a positive attitude among those dealing directly with customers.
3. Take a look in the mirror. Are your staff trained and uniformed and your equipment neat and clean?
4. Go the extra mile. Often it’s the little things the customer doesn’t expect that can help make the difference between a great presentation and a not-so-great presentation. Offer a clean, comfortable cab for the customer to sit in or a refreshment like a cold bottle of water from a cooler on a hot day, or cup of hot chocolate or coffee from a thermos on a cold day. Offer the use of a cell phone for them to call a family member or employer to inform them of their predicament.
Of course, meeting—and exceeding—customer expectations costs money. But remember, the cost of tow service isn't as important as timeliness and attitude and appearance, provided the customer perceives they're getting their money's worth. We may need to rethink what we're charging so we can provide superior service, build our businesses and provide for our families.